The protagonist of my WIP is a bitch, cunning, manipulative, ruthless and murderous. She says the unsayable and does the undoable (if for good reasons). I don’t call her a bitch. I think she’s fine. (Apparently my moral compass is off – it’s only hit and run and she had a good reason!) Someone else, who clearly holds people to higher moral and social standards than I do, dubbed her ‘bitch’. So, it got me thinking about what we mean by ‘bitch’.
It’s only used of women and it’s clearly meant to be bad. But then calling someone ‘the c-word’ is really really bad and that’s just a term for lady bits. But let’s stick with ‘bitch’ for now.
Bitch. Literally, a female dog. Originally slang for a lewd or ill-tempered woman. Then the suggestion of greater evil and (pause for intake of breath) unfaithfulness. When feminism came along, the bitch became bad-good. Along with shoulder pads and spiky heels, we girls needed a bit more earthy fighting spirit (balls?!) to fight patriarchy and claim equality.
In more recent times, some might call them ‘post-feminist’, the term bitch seems to have been further reclaimed and rehabilitated. You can now ‘bitch’n’stitch and there are web magazines for online bitches. These bitches seem a somewhat sanitised version of the foul-mouthed, arsy harridan of yesteryear, sort of ladettes with attitude. Take Elizabeth Wurtzel’s ‘Bitch Rules’, for example. Her rules for a modern day bitch include ‘Eat Dessert’, Be Gorgeous’ and ‘The Only Way to get One Person Off Your Mind is to Get Another One on Your Body’. Whoop. Hundreds of years of female activism and we claim the right to eat, dress up and be promiscuous! Another bitch rule is always ask questions. Why? Because it will make you a provocateur, which is sexy! And here was me thinking asking questions was just a good way to find out what you wanted to know.
The good/bad news is that my protagonist (let’s call her Bev) is not a ladette or a yummy/slummy mummy. She doesn’t have acceptable flaws, such as a penchant for too much white wine, chocolate and the bad boy. She doesn’t go to school in her pyjamas or spend all her money on shoes. She is rude, forthright and Machiavellian. And she is willing to do anything, absolutely anything, to protect her children. That’s my version of the good-bad bitch.
Maybe I need to write some ‘Bev Rules’.